Garner will begin celebrating Memorial Day a little early this year with two events honoring military veterans on Sunday, May 18, which is about a week before the Monday, May 26 holiday.
The two events were independently planned and the organizers didn’t know about the other one until a couple of weeks ago, but they complement each other.
The Gold Star Memorial Day Family Fun Day fund-raiser at Aversboro Bar and Restaurant will be held from noon to 5 p.m., while the Garner Veterans Memorial Salute to the Troops is just down the street at Aversboro Road Baptist Church and begins at 6 p.m.
"Some things are just meant to be," said Wendy Casey, the Aversboro Restaurant owner. “It is really amazing how the events fit together.”
The Town of Garner and the Garner Veterans Memorial Committee will have its traditional Memorial Day observation at the Veterans Memorial at Lake Benson Park on Memorial Day, May 26, at 1:30 p.m. Arlie Honeycutt and Savannah Richmond will sing.
The earlier events are intended to honor veterans, but they are very different.
The Family Fun Day is a fund-raiser for the Captain Joseph House Foundation in Port Angeles, Wash. The facility provides a respite for the families of United States military personnel who are killed in action. The survivors are known as Gold Star families.
The Fun Day events include a corn hole tournament and children’s activities including a bounce house, face painting and crafts. A buffet lunch is available for $5. There will be raffles and auctions.
“We want to put memorial back into Memorial Day,” said Jocelyn Cahall, an event volunteer.
The Salute to the Troops will feature Steve Amerson, who is known as America’s Tenor, and Laurie Gayle Stephenson, a former Christine in Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera.”
The duo have performed with symphonies throughout the country and Amerson often sings at Medal of Honor events. The program will include patriotic songs such as “God Bless the USA” and “God Bless America,” some Broadway tunes such as “Think of Me” from Phantom and some Broadway songs that are inspirational such as “Bring Him Home.”
“We have done lots of concerts honoring our military, but never one exactly like this one,” Stephenson said. “It should be a very special night.”
Amerson said he hoped everyone who attends leaves with a new appreciation of America, the greatness of America and the greatness of the American people.
“This will be an opportunity to show appreciation for our country and for our military men and women who have made sacrifices in our freedom,” he said. “Freedom and liberty are not appreciated as much as they should be. We use the words, but we often don’t fully understand how precious freedom and liberty is.”
He said he senses a desire by people to feel good about America.
“Hopefully, everyone will leave with a renewed sense of how wonderful our country is,” he said.
Several songs will be accompanied by video and Joe Marm, a Medal of Honor recipient, will be a special guest. There also will be a special musical tribute to the Garner Veterans Memorial and every veteran in attendance will receive tokens of recognition.
“This is another opportunity for our town to honor its veterans. It should be a meaningful celebration of all of our veterans,” said Faye Gardner, who has helped organize the event. “We have a wonderful Veterans Memorial (at nearby Lake Benson Park) and this helps us keep our focus on the sacrifices that our veterans have made.”
There is no admission for the Salute, which has been supported by contributions from throughout the community.